Managers who aspire to senior positions have less than six years to make their way up the greasy pole before being labelled as 'career' middle-managers, with managers in the UK given less time to make the grade than those in the US.
By the sixth year at middle-management level, most companies in the United States have already decided whether a middle manager has senior-level potential or has become a "career" middle manager, according to a new study from search and recruitment firm Management Recruiters International.
In the UK, however, this timeframe is even more accelerated, with most middle managers only having four years to advance to the senior level.
The study, which interviewed 200 Human Resource directors or senior executives in the US and 200 Human Resource directors or senior executives in the UK, also determined that "career" middle managers are seen as critical to the success of the company.
On average, a middle manager remains in the same position for 6.3 years before being promoted to senior management in the US while in the U.K., middle managers will spend an average of 4.7 years at that level before being promoted.
However if employees do not make the jump to senior management within that same time period, most surveyed companies said they would be considered "career" middle managers.
And after six years in middle management, the opportunities for advancement to the senior level are greatly reduced in both countries.
Middle managers who aspire to senior positions need to carefully evaluate their career choices at this time, MRI advised, including the possibility of moving on to a new company, to determine how to best meet their goals.
One reason for the accelerated timeframe for advancement in the UK may be the fact that middle-management candidates are more pushy when inquiring about the potential for career growth during the interview process than their counterparts in the US.
On average, almost six out of 10 UK candidates will ask about opportunities for advancement, while only four out of 10 US candidates will do the same.
"Middle managers who have aspirations to become a part of senior management within their own organisation can now be cognizant of how much time they have to reach that goal," said William Olson, President of Management Recruiters International.
"Given this shorter time period, it is critical that these middle managers accelerate their career progression by investigating the available opportunities at their company and positioning themselves as potential senior managers more aggressively."
It also emerged that most employers in both the US and UK prefer to promote managers into senior positions from within the company. Only a quarter of US respondents and one in 10 UK respondents said they would consider a candidate from outside the company to be more attractive than one from within.
"It is critical that companies focus on improving their 'bench strength' of middle-management employees," added Olson.
"Hiring managers must make smarter and more strategic decisions when recruiting middle-management candidates, as these individuals represent the company's future senior leaders."